Been here before?

Words: Kendra Wilson

Pictures: Jim Powell

There is something very familiar about the woods around East Sussex. The spindly birch trees, the bracken, the streams everywhere.

Even if you don’t know Sussex particularly well the chances are that you will recognise it: you HAVE seen it before. That’s because EH Shepard has drawn it.

Drawn to trees

Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner tell us at a young age what trees look like, and not jut the kind that grow on the High Weald of the south east.

Things happen in connection with Shepard’s trees; they make all trees more interesting.

Fences and towering trees

The 100 Aker Wood is a small piece of Ashdown Forest, its real name being Five Hundred Acre Wood. It’s an excellent place to see what trees do and how they grow, with a stand of oaks here, a towering beech there.

Ancient coppices and logging tell a story of forest management and the on-again, off-again trails of split rail fences and laid hedging would make HRH proud.

"Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!" said Piglet, feeling him

Over a sunken path, hollies send down their exposed roots: a menacing sight, particularly for a Piglet. A triangular den made of branches emerges from the undergrowth: it’s Eeyore’s house, the house at Pooh Corner.

And over there is another.

And further on — another. Clearly the creative director of the wood has been distracted by other things

Who needs cake?

There is no adventure playground and nowhere to buy cake. This is just a private wood, with some public paths going through.

One of them happens to cross a wide wooden bridge, built in 1907 for the conveying of heavy logs. Originally called Posingford Bridge it was renamed Poohsticks Bridge in the 70s, with a wary Christopher Robin in attendance.

Pointers

If it were not for some wooden obelisks pointing in the direction of the PBRIDGE you might fail to notice its significance, except to admire its stout construction.

There is a small framed notice board to which visitors have directed their urge to record polite messages like: “Sharon + Jeanne 2014 Pooh Pilgrimage”. If you go on a weekday morning you won’t see any Pooh pilgrims, just the occasional person with a dog.

Winnie the Pooh, PRIVAT

Beyond the well-loved bridge, its currents slowed by a weekend of games, things start to become more of this world.

Gates bear the legend PRIVATE. As the wood ends, neat lawns with signs begin. They mainly read like this: “Private Land No Parking No Picnics”. Residents are not charmed by EH Shepard’s map indicating a “Nice For Piknicks” somewhere around this spot.

Keep it quiet

There is a shop in Hartfield village dedicated to the genius of Milne and Disney, with updated guides to local Pooh places which are more accessible and less enchanted. Nanny Alice might not approve but in the case of the 100-Acre Wood: it’s nice not to share, too much. This way, it is possible to visit this agreeable place on one’s own terms, without the social contract that an entry fee brings.

Just remember to use the Pooh car park.